The Diaper Dilemma

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It’s hard to express my love for the ocean. I have snorkeled, surfed, swam and floated in waters from the South Pacific to the Caribbean. I have seen the sun come up from fifty feet under water and I have been entranced by the glow of the full moon reflecting off of its surface.

Sadly, one consistent characteristic of all the seas I have known, has been the presence of disposable diapers. Even in open water, far from land, they float by, reminding me of the mark we humans are leaving on the planet. Thousands of years from now archaeologists will find these little packets of perfectly preserved poo (18,000,000,000 of which are added every year!), and wonder what the hell we were thinking. This is why, in our family, we use cloth diapers.

The thing that has surprised me most about using cloth diapers, is how few people do it (only an estimated one in ten families use cloth). If you use a service (I love ours: Dy Dee Diaper Service) it’s exactly the same amount of work as disposables. You take off the diaper, drop it in the dirty diaper bin, and once a week you put the bag of dirties out for the nice diaper delivery guy who gives you perfectly clean diapers in exchange. No extra dealings, no scraping of poo, or washing poopy diapers in your machine. It’s so easy, I am simply shocked that more people don’t do it. Price perhaps? We considered that, and did the math. With the service we use, if you break it down to a per-diaper expense, it’s only pennies more than the disposables you get at the store. We tend to go through about 80 diapers in a week. At two cents per diaper, that’s about a buck-sixty in additional expense. A small price to pay for keeping as many diapers out of the environment.

The benefits don’t stop there.

Commercially laundered diapers were found to necessitate one third the amount of energy, and one half the amount of water of disposable diapers (even when factoring in the water used to grow the cotton).

Babies wrapped in cloth were five times less likely to get diaper rash.

When it comes time for potty training, toddlers in cloth diapers, on average, took to their potties a whole year earlier than their disposable diaper wearing friends – a whole year of diaper changing! That was enough to convince me on its own.

I’m not claiming sainthood. When we’re traveling, or even just out running errands, I still use the disposables, but when we’re home, and whenever it is at all practical, I try to use cloth.

If you haven’t thought about cloth – take a few minutes to consider the option. If everyone swapped out just one third of their disposable diapers (even for kids at day care, this is easy to do just by using cloth at night and on the weekends) we could save six billion dirty diapers from going out into the world every year. That would be an amazing step in the right direction.

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